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Supreme Court justice withdraws from Bill 21 challenge after Quebec complains

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Mahmud Jamal speaks during an official welcoming ceremony at the Supreme Court of Canada, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Ottawa. 
(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press) Supreme Court of Canada Justice Mahmud Jamal speaks during an official welcoming ceremony at the Supreme Court of Canada, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
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A Supreme Court of Canada justice says he will not participate in deliberations about whether the high court will hear an appeal to Quebec's secularism law, known as Bill 21.

Justice Mahmud Jamal says in a letter issued Tuesday by the court registrar that while there's no legal basis for him to recuse himself, he has decided to withdraw to avoid being a distraction.

Last week, Quebec's attorney general and other groups called on Jamal to step away from the case because he served as chairman of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's board of directors when the group challenged Bill 21 in Superior Court in 2019.

Jamal initially said he had no intention of sidelining himself from the case, when the issue was first raised on June 25.

In February, Quebec’s Court of Appeal upheld the province’s secularism law, which prohibits some public sector workers from wearing religious symbols on the job.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and other groups have sought leave to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court, which has not yet said whether it will hear the case.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2024. 

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